P. Shanmugavel recently graduated with a BE and has been hunting for a job for the past year. Every employer he has visited, however, has rejected him because of ‘poor communication skills.’
“Until I started hunting for a job, I did not realise how much of a role communication played in the hiring process. I should have learnt English much earlier,” Mr. Shanmugavel said.
According to a recent test, SVAR, conducted by Aspiring Minds, he is not alone. Jobseekers in Chennai performed worse than all the other major cities in the country when it came to knowledge of English.
In the SVAR test, a 15-minute automated phone-based test that measures fluency, pronunciation, listening and comprehension of English language, Chennai had the least mean score in all parameters. “Around 30,000 graduates across the country took the test, and around 35 per cent of the participants from Chennai performed very poorly and 59 per cent could only speak very basic English,” Varun Aggarwal, co-founder and CTO of Aspiring Minds, said.
“Of the total participants from the city, only 0.2 per cent was able to express him/herself spontaneously, fluently and precisely, with the ability to differentiate finer shades of meaning in complex situations,” he added.
Experts in the field seem to agree with these results. According to T. Narayanan from Kings Learning, South, an English language training centre, a majority of candidates from the city are unable to speak fluently or comprehend. “English is not being taught well at the grassroots level, so many of our clients are unable to do more than recite what was in a school or college textbook. We get many clients coming in after eight or nine years of corporate experience who only then realise the importance of learning English,” he said.
Lack of communication skill is a major concern for most employers, especially IT companies, Regional director of NASSCOM K. Purushotha- man says. “Since there are so many engineering colleges in the State, the quality of education, whether it is communication or domain knowledge, suffers. IT companies spend around Rs.3,000 crore on training alone, but they are working to reduce costs with on-campus training,” he said.
According to a professor from Madras University, one of the problems in the arts and science streams is that tier-two and three colleges allow students to write papers in a mix of English and Tamil. “Even if students are studying in an English-medium college, they will often write parts of their answers in Tamil, and the university expects us to award marks to these candidates as well,” he said.
Thangam Meghanathan, chairperson, Rajalakshmi Group of Institutions, says that since a majority of the students who are admitted through the single-window admissions are first-generation graduates, they have not been exposed to English through their life and often struggle to speak the language. “The people who speak English at homes, however, have a very good command of the language,” she added.